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Prisoners (Interpreters)

Volume 978: debated on Monday 4 February 1980

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asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department what arrangements are made for interpreters during prison disciplinary proceedings against prisoners with imperfect understanding of English; and whether he can give an undertaking that no such prisoner is punished without the presence of an interpreter at the disciplinary proceedings.

In general, it is for the governor to make local arrangements to deal with any problems of communication that may arise because a prisoner cannot speak or understand English. In addition to a prison's own linguistic resources—including other prisoners—the governor may approach embassies or consulates, the United Kingdom Immigrants Advisory Service, the courts and the police, who keep approved lists of interpreters. If necessary, disciplinary proceedings are delayed or adjourned until a suitable interpreter is available. I am not aware of any problems which have arisen but I should be glad to hear from the hon. Gentleman if he knows of any particular difficulty.Prison rule 49(2) provides that a prisoner against whom any disciplinary charge has been laid shall be given a full opportunity of hearing what is alleged against him and of presenting his case. If his understanding of the English language is inadequate for this purpose he must have the services of an interpreter before the requirements of this rule can be met.